A tribute to a pioneer of Omanisation in the oil and gas industry

Oman Saturday 07/August/2021 21:45 PM
By: Saleh Al-Shaibany
A tribute to a pioneer of Omanisation in the oil and gas industry
The late Suleiman bin Mohammed Al-Lamki

Muscat: Suleiman bin Mohammed Al-Lamki has died at the age of 81 and is considered as one of the stalwarts in the Omanisation process in the oil and gas sector in the Sultanate of Oman.

He was the first Omani to be in the management team in Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) in the early 1980s. PDO’s management positions, before then were entirely filled by expatriates, mainly nominated by Shell.  Suleiman was later appointed the first Omani Head of Human Resources at PDO, a position he occupied until his retirement in 1999.

While he was in that position, Suleiman led the Omanisation process at PDO and worked hard to bring in fresh Omani talents to the company. Before he retired, PDO Omanised about 70 per cent of the total workforce, which many felt was a great achievement, considering many of the positions required high professional skills.

He was born in Zanzibar in October 1939 and his father sent him to the United Kingdom to a boarding school at the age of 13. He went on to enrol in the London School of Economics and graduated with a Political Science Degree. He worked in four different countries: Zanzibar, United Kingdom, Libya and eventually in Oman.  His friends and colleagues remember Suleiman as helpful, kind and generous.

“I am still affected by his untimely death. He was a wonderful man, a true professional and a gentleman,” Ali Al-Battashi, who was Adviser at the Ministry of Oil and Gas, said.

Others remember him as a colleague who always had time with the staff when they needed him.

“Suleiman was a very dear friend and a colleague at PDO for many years. He was a true professional who established the HR systems as we have them now at PDO. He took time to deal with staff and consulted with them. Socially, he was very much a family man surrounded by a circle of friends. To me, he was like an older brother. I miss him dearly,” said Abdullah Al-Lamki, former Deputy Managing Director at PDO.

His former secretary also has fond memories of Suleiman when they were working together.

“I worked with him as his secretary for almost 20 year from 1981 until he retired. Initially, I worked with him when he was Employee Relations Manager, in charge of company policies, staff issues and benefits. When later he became Director of HR, he never changed as his responsibility grew bigger and challenging. He had an open door policy. He was a clear thinker and a natural leader. He was also kind and a gentleman,” Fathiya Al-Ismaily, said.

He is also remembered as an intellectual who loved to quote English writers and poets.

“It was a sad day when we heard that Suleiman had passed away whilst we were out of the country. I have known him personally all my life as we are related and always looked up to him as a big brother. He was always jovial and had a great command of the English language and a great sense of humour having been educated in the United Kingdom. He could quote Shakespeare or Chaucer when we used to meet on Wednesday evening for a social gathering at the PDO Club with many friends from all walks of life. I found him very well read on many subjects including world events and was very caring for those who are very oppressed. He loved to joke as well as quote odd phrases. I always remember one of his quotes, “Life is like a Bombay curry.”

“Suleiman was a professional and worked with him and for him at PDO for over 25 years. I took over his role as HR Director in 1999 when he retired. He was instrumental in getting off many of the Human Resources Policies in the company. He was one of the pioneers who helped in building the company. He was a thorough and fair professional and a prominent figure in the Shell group of companies. I certainly will miss him as a cousin and as an ex-colleague and will always be dearly remembered,” Mohammed Al-Kharusi, a man who took over from him as Director of HR at PDO, said.

His other colleagues remember his early days at work in PDO.

“He will be remembered as the pioneer of the first ever Omani HR Director when he took over from Tom Murphy at the time the position was known as Administration Manager. He was also graceful after he retired and we used to meet at the PDO Clinic from time to time with his family. He inspired me to become Chairman of PDO Pensioners. May Allah rest him in peace,” Ali Said Al-Mandhry, a retired Head of Medical Laboratory and the current Chairman of PDO Pensioners Committee, said.

A colleague remembered him as a passionate and focused person.

“Professionally, Suleiman was a true HR person but with a passion for people. He was a very respectable person who was down to earth in his approach. Most importantly he was a good listener and welcomed all PDO staff. He tried to be fair but firm in his dealings with staff and that was a credit in his favour.  On personal, basis he was more of a friend to me who would always give me a sensible advice. A very humorous person even at times of difficulties with great care in his dealings and very supportive. In short, he was a real gentleman and a very respectable person,” said Khamis Al-Maskeri, ex-Community Relationship Manager at PDO, said.

They also recall Suleiman’s humane and compassionate side of him.

“The late Suleiman Al-Lamki, to me, was a people’s person and contributed a lot to bring Omanisation to the company.  Every morning Suleiman would find his staff whenever they were in the building to greet them. He had an open-door policy. If he recognises a voice, he will come out to say hello, never refused to see anybody.  When you meet him in the corridor, Suleiman would shout your name from a distance. This was very touchy, even after retirement.  I met him several times at Alfair Supermarket in Qurm, and he would always come to say something and the meeting would always end up with a smile as he had a good sense of humour.  He would call the salespeople by their names in supermarkets. He was also very focused and I had a privilege of knowing that when I once I worked for him when his secretary was on leave,” Sheikha Al-Harthy, a retired PDO’s Executive Secretary to Deputy Managing Director and Safety Advisor.

His family are grateful and would like to thank all for their kind accolades and tributes to him that helped them in their difficult time to cope with the loss.